About

Alex uses genetic, proteomic and metabolomic approaches to study both infectious and chronic diseases.

She is currently funded by a Queensland Accelerate Fellowship to characterise the virulence mechanisms of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a pathogen that has caused massive population declines in frog species worldwide. Alex is also funded by a JCU Rising Star Grant to study how oxidative stress can drive obesity-linked liver cancer.

Her previous research has focused on thiol-dependent antibiotic resistance and oxidative stress protection in Firmicutes, iron sequestration in marine actinomycetes, and the biosynthesis of cyanobacterial toxins.

Teaching
  • BC2013: Principles of Biochemistry (Level 2; TSV)
  • BC2014: Principles of Biochemistry for Pharmacy Students (Level 2; TSV)
  • BC5102: Advanced Molecular Basis of Disease (Level 5; TSV)
  • BC5312: Research and Dissertation in Molecular and Cell Biology (Level 5; TSV)
Interests
Research
  • Enzymology
  • Virulence mechanisms
  • Amphibian chytrid fungus
  • Chytridiomycosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Metabolomics
  • Oxidative stress
Experience
  • 2018 to present - Lecturer - Molecular and Cell Biology, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2013 to present - Research Fellow, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2010 to 2012 - Senior Research Associate, University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK)
  • 2008 to 2010 - Postdoctoral Researcher, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego (San Diego, USA)
  • 2004 to 2009 - PhD Microbiology and Immunology, University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia)
Research Disciplines
Honours
Fellowships
  • 2015 to 2018 - Accelerate Fellowship - Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts
  • 2016 to 2017 - Rising Star Grant - James Cook University
  • 2004 to 2008 - Australian Postgraduate Award
  • 2004 to 2008 - CRC for Water Quality and Treatment Postgraduate Award
Memberships
  • 2016 - Member of the Australian Society for Microbiology
  • 2016 - Member of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Publications

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
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ResearchOnline@JCU stores 23+ research outputs authored by Dr Alexandra Roberts from 2007 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Ecological Society of Australia - Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment

RNAi as a novel antifungal treatment for endangered frogs

Indicative Funding
$4,630
Summary
This project aims to develop a novel method to treat fungal diseases. RNA interference (RNAi) is a cutting edge technique in which small interfering RNA (siRNA) silences genes of interest. I aim to use siRNA to target virulence genes of the fungal disease `amphibian chytrid fungus? in the hope that this can be developed into therapeutic. This will be the first time RNAi has been manipulated in this fungi species, and also the first instance of using siRNA as an antifungal treatment for an animal.
Investigators
Rebecca Webb, Alexandra Roberts, Lee Berger and Lee Skerratt (College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Keywords
RNA interference; Health; Wildlife; Antifungal; Virulence; Biosecurity

Morris Animal Foundation - Pilot Studies

Saving endangered frogs: Using RNA Interference to reduce the virulence of the Frog-killing fungus

Indicative Funding
$13,800
Summary
This project aims to mitigate the effect of fungal diseases via small interfering RNA (siRNA) using Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) infection in amphibians as a model system. Bd produces metabolites that suppress frog immunity, therefore, siRNAs will be developed to inhibit immunosuppressant production and improve host survival. First, siRNAs will be transfected into the pathogen, to confirm gene silencing and determine the effect on growth and virulence. Effective siRNAs will then be tested in vivo by spraying topically onto infected frogs, to improve disease resistance.
Investigators
Alexandra Roberts in collaboration with Lee Berger, Rebecca Webb and Lee Skerratt (College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Keywords
Amphibian Declines; Virulence; Antifungal treatment; Chytrid

Department of Environment and Science - Accelerate Fellowships

How the fungus kills the frog: Determining the mechanisms of chytrid virulence

Indicative Funding
$180,000 over 3 years, in partnership with Taronga Conservation Society Australia ($30,000 over 2 yrs)
Summary
The fungal disease chytridiomycosis has caused global extinctions of amphibians, including six Australian frog species ? all of them from Queensland. Five more Queensland frog species are endangered and two are critically endangered. These species will likely become extinct unless intensive management strategies for chytridiomycosis are implemented. The causative fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) inhibits the frog immune system and damages the skin, leading to death via cardiac arrest. However, the lack of understanding of how the fungus causes these effects has undermined effective disease management. To address this problem, I will firstly identify virulence factors that will enable the development of novel diagnostic screens, to map the distribution of virulent strains in the wild. This approach will identify hotspots of high risk for future disease outbreaks. Secondly, I will develop targeted drugs to overcome immunosuppression and enhance vaccination against the disease. Lastly, viruses of fungi will be investigated to find suitable biocontrol agents that will kill the fungus, and hence, treat infected frogs in captivity and in the wild. Overall, this project will inform management and frog reintroduction practices in Queensland to help control the spread and impact of this devastating disease, and ultimately safeguard our unique amphibian biodiversity.
Investigators
Alexandra Roberts (College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Keywords
Amphibian Chytrid Fungus

QLD Department of Science, Information, Technology and Innovation - Advance Queensland Women's Academic Fund

New Methods To Protect Frogs From Chytridiomycosis

Indicative Funding
$13,000
Summary
Amphibians are under threat from the frog-killing fungus, which causes the fatal skin disease chytridiomycosis. My research investigates new methods to protect captive and wild frogs from chytridiomycosis, including testing new therapeutics and characterising virulence mechanisms of the pathogen. The Advance Queensland Women?s Academic Fund supports women in maintaining their research careers, and supports Queensland Organisations in promoting the achievements of Queensland?s female researchers. The funding can be used to employ a research assistant to continue research progress while on parental leave.
Investigators
Alexandra Roberts, Lee Berger and Richard Webb (College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Keywords
Chytrid Fungus; Amphibian Declines; Antifunal treatments; Molecular Biology
Supervision

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

Current
  • The Role of Fructose in Liver Cancer (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Reducing Virulence of Fungal Pathogens using Genetics Tools (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Controlling Chytridiomycosis: Characterizing immunosuppressants and mycoviruses from the frog-killing fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
Collaboration

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

Connect with me
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jcu.me/alex.roberts

Email
Phone
Location
  • 142.312, The Science Place (Townsville campus)
  • 41.106, Public and Indigenous Health (Townsville campus)
Advisory Accreditation
Primary Advisor
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